• Joel Dwek

GREECE: Epitafios-Epifania - Grigoris Bithikotsis & Meri Lida

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Zorba The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis collaborates with two singers of different styles to form a delightful Greek folk album

While the music of Grigoris Bithikotsis and Meri Lida might make one think of gyros, kleftiko, feta cheese and the abundant smashing of crockery, for me it holds a slightly different, personal significance. It reminds me of my grandfather. He loved Greek music and one of my abiding memories of him is listening incessantly to London Greek Radio or to CDs of it whenever I was in the car with him. My grandfather was not Greek – he came from just across the Mediterranean, from Egypt – but for some reason, he adored the music of Greece. He is no longer with us now, and music does have a funny way of reminding one of people, places, and times in our lives, so I suppose Greek music is a little memory capsule for me to memories of my grandfather. Anyway, enough of my reminiscences – on with the review.

“It’s fun, easy-listening Greek folk music on the Bithikotsis half, and the Lida half is similar, but with more of a Western pop style instrumentation.”

The album itself is a bit unusual in its construction. It appears to have been initially released as two albums, hence the double-barrelled title, of songs produced by the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis of Zorba the Greek fame, by two different singers. As such, this is not a collaboration album, like the previously reviewed Sammy Davis Jr. Sings, Laurindo Almeida Plays, where the artists appear on the same song, instead one can take the album’s two halves as two sides of the same coin, where each artist interprets the work of Theodorakis in their own way. Bithikotsis goes for a more traditional approach, whereas Meri Lida (also credited as Mary Linda in some versions of the album) takes a more pop-friendly approach, though the bouzouki never seems too far away. It also means you can compare and contrast which versions of the songs you like more (Bithikotsis does a better Isoun Kalos, but Lida’s powerful, clear vocal tone suits Pou Petaxe T’Agori Mou more). Or you could simply take one side of the album that you like more and listen only to that, as it is two discrete entities that have been jammed together. Both singers have good voices, I do think that though Lida has the better voice objectively, but to my mind Bithikotsis has a more suitable voice for this genre. Lida should be singing in a chamber pop group or on the stage, whereas Bithikotsis’s smooth yet earthy tones suit the ad hoc, stripped-down nature of Greek folk.

The music itself is perfectly lovely, in my opinion. It’s fun, easy-listening Greek folk music on the Bithikotsis half, and the Lida half is similar, but with more of a Western pop style instrumentation. Without wanting to delve into Greek stereotypes completely, it is definitely music for your trip to Corfu in ’06, where you sat by the beach and took in the Greek sun, and in the evenings went to the taverna and the band were playing songs like this. It’s hardly revolutionary music that will change the way you thought about music, but it’s very pleasant, and gives you a good sense of what Greek folk music is like. To its credit, it is also interesting to listen to actively, as well as it being charming as background ‘taverna’ music. If you’re looking for variety, this is not the album for you. It has two styles, and that’s Greek folk music and Greek folk music with some violins, but I don’t say that as a criticism. You simply need to know what you’re getting yourself into. So, if you fancy kicking back with some ouzo, and imagining you’re off to some sunny isle, this might be the album for you.